Theses (Historic Preservation)

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



Suggested Citation:

Mileo, Fabiana C. (2012). When Change Is the Best Option: Method for the Evaluation of the Impact of Change of Use in Houses of Worship. (Masters Thesis). University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.


Houses of worship constitute valuable landmarks in the built environment; they represent the power of faith and mankind, in the form of durable buildings designed to stand the test of time. Nevertheless, houses of worship are becoming redundant as a result of endogenous factors, such as maintenance or lack of funding, and exogenous factors, often related to suburbanization and demographic changes. As a consequence, many houses of worship are suffering a process of decay, which calls for adaptive reuse as a necessary response.

While the adaptive reuse of houses of worship is becoming a common practice, current practices do not prioritize the comprehensive preservation of the character-defining features. Specifically, traditional preservation approaches do not take into consideration the relevance of the sensory perception of the space as a determinant in the preservation of the character and significance of the place.

This thesis seeks to provide a useful tool for preservation and design professionals in the decision-making process of adaptive reuse of houses of worship. In order to do so, this thesis: (1) identifies the character-defining elements of houses of worship and their source, (2) analyzes current practices in adaptive reuse of houses of worship, and (3) proposes an evaluation method that, when applied in early stages of the reuse process, assesses the impact that the change of use may cause in the character of houses of worship from a physical and experiential points of view.


experiential, decision-making, underutilization, perception, identification



Date Posted: 25 February 2014